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Diary: Offstage fright at The Woman in Black

David Acton in The Woman in Black
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It’s tempting to think of the West End’s long-running plays as creaky outdated relics, and indeed, that’s how they’re too often described.

But as Tabard paid yet another visit to The Woman in Black this week, the excitement returned, as it always does: fresh casts and ingenious staging makes the play feel alive.

But why did I choose to see the show again now? Funny you should ask: Tabard read something else this week that piqued his interest – and made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.

A spoiler alert now, for those who haven’t seen it. If you haven’t, be gone – and see it for yourself with fresh eyes. Plot details to follow.

As publicised, the show is a two-hander, with each actor taking on many parts. But there’s a third actor too, uncredited for her efforts, who plays the Woman herself.

The show’s final twist is that the main character, Kipps – having staged his story with the help of an actor – denies hiring a second to play the Woman who’s been terrifying the audience. The armchair starts to rock by itself. (It is for this point in the play that Tabard recommends wearing brown underwear.)

But you assume the real actors are all in on it together. The three of them, backstage during the interval, laughing and knocking back gin.

Not according to David Acton, who plays Kipps on tour. In fact, he revealed this week that he has never seen or met the actor who plays the Woman.

Which is fairly terrifying. But it’s all theatre isn’t it? It’s all smoke and mirrors and of course there’s an actor. Isn’t there?

Send stories to tabard@thestage.cok

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